By Nikki Jamieson
Vauxhall’s sunny disposition has been attracting the attention of solar companies.
During their regular March 20 meeting, Vauxhall Town council reviewed a contract between them and solar energy company Moose Power, to install a series of solar panels on town land.
The Advance was unable to obtain a copy of the contract, as it is still under review by both parties.
The land in question the solar panels would be on is not within town boundaries, but rather on a piece of town-owned land northeast of town, a mile outside town limits.
Coun. Richard Phillips raised the question of whether in the area where the panels would be, they would be able to expand the town’s sewage lagoons in the future if necessary, noting that “we can’t afford to lease land we need for our own purposes”. Town CAO Cris Burns noted that he didn’t think it would, as if they expand, they likely build another lagoon. However, its hard to tell without an arial view of the lagoons.
“I don’t think what they’ve drawn there is the best representation of the land that we could make available,” said Phillips. “In principle, yes, there’s land that we could make available, a significant amount. But, it’s got to be, somehow, the wording tightened up so that we can retain whatever land out of this potential lease that we need for the lagoon expansion. And they’ll be happy with that I’m sure, because I don’t think they want to put 100 acres of panels in there anyhow.”
Burns said he would talk to engineers and inquire as to, in the event of a lagoon expansion how much land they would need for it.
Adding he doesn’t want it turned down because of this, Phillips did ask that they adjust the sketch and corresponding schedule to reflect their needs. Mayor Margaret Plumtree also inquired that, as long as they were doing that, if they can change the two per cent portion of the price. Philips replied that, having dealt with Moose Power on land leases previously, he doesn’t believe they will budge on that. What they might be more amendable to, he said is changing the base rent section of the contract, to allow for a cumulative change in the consumer price index (CPI) every five years in the contract, instead of just once after five years.
“You’re going to hear of other solar developments that sound much more lucrative then this one,” said Phillips. “But the reality is, there are very few developers, I would suggest, that still are as interested in these small parcels. The more lucrative ones, they have applied early and guaranteed themselves based on the local substations. There is no more capacity available on substation. So this developer is operating under a different business model then most of them, and they’re not offering the same kind of dollars, but they’re not, it’s really an apples to oranges comparison.
“The base rent plus the two per cent, is their best deal, that’s become perfectly clear.”
Council passed a motion to make changes to the contract, and send it back to Moose Power. The contract is not yet ratified, as both parties would need to agree to the changes and sign it.
“At this point, it’s basically just an option, and if they exercise that option, then we would automatically proceed to a lease,” said Phillips, adding Moose Power needs to do studies to see if the project is viable, so it is more of a first step. “It may ultimately result in a solar farm on that quarter-section.”
According to administration, Moose Power had approached the town about installing solar panels on their land approximently six months ago. The company still has to get environmental approvals and get permits from the Alberta Utilities Commissions, amoung others, but once they get all their approvals in place and the contract signed, they can start building, subject to the terms of agreement.
Moose Power is an independent renewable energy project developer based out of Toronto, Ont. They specialize in solar, energy storage and micro-grid projects.
In 2015, the Alberta government announced its Climate Leadership Plan, with the aim of having the province’s power transiting away from coal-power and 30 per cent being generated by renewable resources by 2030. As a result of this announcement, subsequent diversification of energy resources and long term contracts that the government will be offering, companies have started investing in solar farms in the province. The southeastern corner of Alberta has one of the highest photovoltaic (PV) — the conversion of light into electricity using semi-conductive materials — potentials in Canada, with a range of between 1,300-1,400 kWh/kW, which makes it an attractive place to have solar farms. PV potentials in Canada range anywhere from 700-1,400 kWh/kW.